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Bulimia Nervosa Health Center

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Bulimia Nervosa - Topic Overview

Bulimia (say "boo-LEE-mee-uh") is a type of eating disorder. People with bulimia will eat a larger amount of food than most people would in a similar situation, in a short period of time (binge). Then, in order to prevent weight gain, they will do something to get rid of the food (purge). They may vomit, exercise too much, or use medicines like laxatives.

People who have bulimia judge themselves harshly on their body weight and shape. In order to help them cope with these feelings, they follow a strict diet to try to lose weight. But over time the hunger from the strict diet triggers them to binge eat. After binge eating, they feel out of control, ashamed, guilty, and afraid of gaining weight. This distress causes them to purge, in hopes of "undoing" any possible weight gain from the binge.

Without treatment, this "binge and purge" cycle can lead to serious, long-term health problems. Acid in the mouth from vomiting can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and loss of tooth enamel. Any type of purging can lead to bone thinning (osteoporosis), kidney damage, heart problems, or even death.

If you or someone you know has bulimia or another eating disorder, get help. Eating disorders can be dangerous. And willpower alone is not enough to overcome them. Treatment can help a person who has an eating disorder feel better and be healthier.

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